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The Marrying of Chani Kaufman


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Product Details

  • Unknown Binding
  • ISBN-10: 1908737441
  • ISBN-13: 978-1908737441
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (147 customer reviews)

Customer Reviews

Excellent insight into Jewish orthodox marriage rituals.
Vicki Coblentz
I am an observant Jew who didn't know whether to laugh or cry just a few pages into this mess.
Green Giraffe
Story was well-written and the ending was very surprising!
Harriet Zisman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

63 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Frieda on March 28, 2014
Format: Paperback
I should begin my review by saying two things about my own interest in this book: 1. I grew up ultra-orthodox and 2. I left ultra-orthodoxy at 25.

The book is a compilation of several fictional stories about a few individuals in the ultra-orthodox community. The stories are unoriginal; about a couple meeting through a shidduch, a meddlesome mother in law, a young yeshiva boy who has an affair with a black girl and a middle-aged woman who runs off from the community. The stories are cut up in chapters that skip between the different stories, so all stories span the length of the book. But most of the book actually reads like a long long long introduction to the climax: the salacious wedding night scene between Chani Kaufman and her groom. The author clearly loves to write about the going-ons between couples. I regret to say however, that except for the final chapters, the couples’ going-ons are rather uneventful.

The people in the book seem mostly stifled, uninspired, obsessed with Hashem and repressed by the religious society.

My own experiences make me very open to criticism of the ultra-orthodox community. I have nothing against books that reflect the problems which are in plain view or hidden, but at the same time I am very in tune with nuance of the culture. It is very frustrating and grating to read a book that is full of giant inaccuracies. Not inaccuracies of ritual, but inaccuracies of the cultural essence, the characters and the spirit of the people. So my problem with this fairly negative book is not that it is negative, but that the negativities are often inaccurate.

For example:

The ultra-orthodox women have many children.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Julianne Quaine on September 15, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book, long-listed for the Booker prize but not short-listed, relates the difficulties of being an orthodox Jew in present day western society. Set in London a 19 year old girl Chani is about to marry a boy she hardly knows, and whom she has never touched, while the Rabbi's wife Revka, who is teaching her about being a good Jewish wife, is struggling to maintain her own faith. While the novel focuses on the impact of faith on women and their lives: the prospect of many children and lost educational opportunities, there is a side story of Revka's son who falls in love with a goy and his struggle with his orthodox life as a result. The novel moves along at a fast pace and is very readable. For me it was a good introduction to the world of Orthodox Jews, many of whom I saw when I visited Jerusalem.
One annoying thing about the kindle edition is that there is no link between the Yiddish words and the glossary making it tiresome to look them up. If a kindle edition is created, it should use such features!
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By E. Bukowsky HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 29, 2013
Format: Paperback
In "The Marrying of Chani Kaufman," Eve Harris discloses the secrets of a Chasidic community in Golders Green, London, focusing on the tribulations of three families: the Kaufmans, Levys, and Zilbermans. The Kaufmans have eight daughters, one of whom, nineteen-year-old Chani, is seeking an intelligent, animated, and good-natured husband. The Levys, a well-to-do couple, want only the best for their son, Baruch, and plan to settle for nothing less. The Zilbermans are facing a major crisis. Rabbi Zilberman's wife, Rivka, is no longer a contented spouse, mother, and homemaker; she is restless, edgy, and depressed. Adding to the tension is the fact that one of her sons, Avromi, a university student, is acting strangely. He is secretive, stays out late, and avoids telling his family where he has been.

Harris goes back and forth in time, creating a well-rounded portrait of a community whose members prize tradition, virtue, and spirituality. If anyone deviates from prescribed standards of behavior--by dressing immodestly, showing too much interest in secular matters, or flouting religious law--he or she risks censure or, in some cases, ostracism. However, the author indicates that many Chasidim have a great deal to be grateful for: particularly the support of relatives, friends, and neighbors and the peace of mind that comes from knowing one's place in the world. The cast includes the young and not-so-young, the experienced and naïve, the affluent and those struggling to get by. We observe Chani Kaufman navigating the dating scene with anticipation as well as trepidation. We also meet Baruch Levy, a twenty-year-old who fears that he is not ready to shoulder the responsibilities that marriage entails. Manipulating the matchmaking strings is the smug and calculating Mrs.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Pamela on January 12, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I had high expectations for this novel, because I am fascinated by the Hasidic community, and because it was nominated for the Man Booker prize, but this ended up being pretty mediocre. The story alternates between several characters, with different chapters dedicated to different story lines. I am never terribly fond of this method of narration because I tend to get sucked into one character's life just as the novel abruptly switches to another perspective. (I have the same problem with Game of Thrones.)
The first few chapters are riveting, but the various story lines become more tedious thereafter, especially Chani's, since I didn't really care how much her pushy Mother-in-law objected to the union. The other plots, about the rabbi's wife who hates living in a fish bowl and a college student who gets a non-religious girlfriend, would have worked much better if they explored the psychological depth of those predicaments, rather than just the surface emotions of frustration and guilt. The writing itself is is workaday, meaning it gets the job done but its isn't good enough to keep a dull story interesting. I found myself skimming to get to the end.
I do want to note that some reviewers mention how the novel gives insight into the Jewish religion and customs, but of course the ultra orthodox represent a small percentage of Jews in total, and their interpretations of the religion are far from universal to all Jews. That said, the book does do a good job portraying British Hasidic life.
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